The N-terminal Prodomain of sV23 is Essential for the Assembly of a Functional Vitelline Membrane Network in Drosophila
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The vitelline membrane is a specialized extracellular matrix that surrounds and protects the oocyte. Recent studies indicate that it also serves as a storage site for embryonic pattern determinants. sV23, a major vitelline membrane protein, is essential for the morphogenesis of the vitelline membrane as sV23 protein null mutants lay flaccid, infertile eggs. By analyzing a series of sV23 mutant transgenes in the sV23 protein null genetic background, we have shown that sV23 is secreted as a proprotein in functional excess and that C- and N-terminal prodomains are removed successively, following its deposition in the extracellular space. Although a target site for subtilisin-like convertases is essential for N-terminal processing, N-terminal processing is not necessary for the assembly of a functional vitelline membrane layer. While C-terminal truncations were tolerated, the removal of N-terminal sequences lead to the production of flaccid, infertile eggs with a soluble, rather than insoluble, vitelline membrane network. We propose that the hydrophobic N-terminal prodomain plays an early and essential role in aligning molecules within the vitelline membrane network, much like hydrophobic domains within elastin drive the assembly and alignment of molecules within elastin-based extracellular matrices.